Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” ~E.B. White
Genghis Khan’s brutal sweep across the steppes spread the game of chess, a game he relished.
A half-eaten piece of cheese led to a man’s conviction of burglary in a famous criminal trial.
“Every two days, we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”
Humans consume energy at an incredible rate: about 18 terawatts, or 18 trillion joules of energy per second. But if we had to supply that much energy ourselves, it would be the equivalent of every man, woman, and child on the planet weightlifting 570 pounds up 1 meter, every second, for the rest of our lives.
- War and World History by Jonathan Roth
- Trails of Evidence: How Forensic Science Works by Elizabeth Murray
- Thinking about Cybersecurity: From Cyber Crime to Cyber Warfare by Paul Rosenzweig
- Science of Energy: Resources and Power Explained by Michael Wysession (due out March 2016)
In each case, they made me wake up to some aspect of the subject I hadn’t considered.
What Are Juicy Tidbits?
“Juicy tidbits” are those delicious nuggets you can’t wait to serve up at your next cocktail party or dinner.
They’re the facts that are so surprising you can’t help but say, “Ha! I didn’t know that!” —and then eagerly offer them to the next person you meet, as if you’re saying, “You’ve GOT to taste this!”
They are the kind of delicacy that whets your appetite for more.
Why We Need Juicy Tidbits in Our Courses
Juicy tidbits make a subject memorable. They engage us in a subject in a new way by not only appealing to our imagination but also by helping us see things differently. Things we weren’t expecting to see.
Like putting avocado in a chocolate smoothie. Adds nutrients, thickens the smoothie, makes it creamy and delectable. Tastes completely different than what I expected. An unexpected combination that makes me want to tell other people to try it. And isn’t this one hoped-for ideal about what we teach?
Ingredients for Juicy Tidbits
- Something little known; typically, you’ll have to do some research to find them
- Something that surprises and delights us because it’s so unexpected
- Something that appalls us but highlights a subject’s importance (For instance, did you know that most fruit is picked before it has developed its own natural ethylene, and then pumped full of the gas so they ripen in time for the grocery store? Ick.)
- Something relevant to the subject
- Something that helps us understand the subject from a new angle
- Weird facts that explain something you’ve always wondered about (There really is a reason swimming in cold water makes you have to pee, for example.)
- True-life stories that put the subject in eye-opening context
- Something that is simply mind-boggling (like the quotation by Google CEO Eric Schmidt that Paul Rosenzweig cited in his course)
What better way to get us to eat our vegetables than to serve them with a savory sauce or in an unexpected combination?
You don’t want to overload your lesson with juicy tidbits, nor do you want to throw them in vicariously, like a turnip in a banana pie. Ghastly.
But place them here and there throughout the meal, and your students will end each lesson satisfied and looking forward to the next gastronomical—and intellectual—repast.
Click here for a copy of “7 Techniques to Grab Your Audience”—my most popular post!
Marcy McDonald is an Online Course Producer. She helps Subject Matter Experts and Professors create online courses with better content, delivery, and production, for better teaching. She’s developed ~450 online courses for lifelong learners, worked in video and audio studios, and filmed in the field (literally).